With all the hype surrounding Michelle Williams’s turn as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week With Marilyn," you’d be forgiven for forgetting that the film marks a turning point for another actress in the project. With her first on-screen role since wrapping the "Harry Potter" series, Emma Watson makes the leap from the franchise that won her fame and fortune.
Is this the start of a burgeoning career for the young British beauty? For Watson, that all depends on how she plays the game.
In "Marilyn," Watson turns in a charming performance as a costume girl on set of "The Prince and the Showgirl"; she falls for Colin Clark, an ambitious assistant on set. The role is small and doesn't offer Watson much to do other than play scorned when Clark sets his sights on Monroe, but Watson carries the bit part off with relative ease and leaves a good, if slight, impression.
Given the size of Watson's role in "Marilyn," it’s clear that the actress is paying her dues. And pay her dues she must. During her 10 years on "Potter," Watson only embarked on two other projects (the BBC1 movie "Ballet Shoes" and the animated yarn "The Tale of Desperaux," both released in between "Potter" movies four and five). Prior to "Potter," Watson had no film experience.
But it's not like Watson was resting on her laurels when not shooting "Potter." During the latter stage of her time in the wizard's world, the actress took courses at Brown University. She's since left to begin at Worcester College at Oxford, where she’s studying English. Watson’s also been busy modeling for Burberry, and recently she became the new face of Lancôme International.
As MTV’s Amy Wilkinson suggests, "Signing on for a small supporting role in 'Marilyn' made sense at the time for Emma as she juggled both the rigors of school and cinema. Not to mention, it gave her a very low-pressure way to wet her feet in post-'Potter' waters."
If Watson's next project is any indication, her work in "Marilyn" paid off. In her next film, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," Watson takes center stage in another big-screen adaptation of a novel. In "Wallflower" Watson plays Samantha, a hard-partying senior girl who takes an introvert freshman under her wing.
There’s a lot resting on her performance, since it marks her first real stab at a lead role post-"Potter." It will also put her American accent skills to the test. If she nails that aspect of the gig, she’ll no doubt me more marketable in American projects. And let’s face it, Hollywood is probably where she wants to work.
The film has the potential to be a hit, given the popular source material. But even still, Watson should be careful with the image she’s putting across in another tale geared towards teens. As Wilkinson suggests, "21-year-old Emma needs to veer away from those high schooler roles if she doesn’t want to be typecast as a teen for the foreseeable future."
"Potter” fans have grown up. Watson, like those that grew up watching her, will have to nab parts in her actual age bracket to continue to appeal to those familiar with her. Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, seems to have taken this to heart. The 22-year-old will next be seen playing a lawyer (how grown-up!), in the period horror picture "The Woman in Black."
Also Check Out: Emma Watson in "My Week With Marilyn" Clip
The biggest challenge Watson faces in securing those types of roles is her fierce female competition. As Vulture reports in a study of how young actresses are eclipsing their male counterparts in young Hollywood, "If asked to name a promising young actress under 25, you'd have a long list to choose from. There's Jennifer Lawrence, an Oscar nominee poised for superstardom as the lead of 'The Hunger Games,' and Kristen Stewart, who already has the high profile but impressed in several indies before she ever signed on for 'Twilight.' You've also got Emma Stone, Ellen Page, Mia Wasikowska, Evan Rachel Wood ... and an arresting roster of teen actresses who've made their mark, which includes Chloe Moretz, Hailee Steinfeld, Saoirse Ronan, and both Elle and Dakota Fanning."
Those names are enough to give any budding starlet a headache. What Watson needs to do to stand out and define herself as a "real" actress is do what so many of these young ladies have done: Take a fee cut and make an indie.
After all, thanks to “Potter,” Watson has enough bank to quit acting altogether and live out her life on a remote island. If she wants to stay in the game, she's doing it because she’s passionate for the craft. Every actress mentioned above has followed that lead. (Yes, even Emma Stone. Before "Zombieland," the actress starred alongside Jeff Daniels and Ryan Reynolds in the little-seen "Paper Man.")
It’s a known fact that indies need a marquee name to secure financing. There are likely a slew of up and coming directors that would leap at the opportunity to cast Watson. An independent production will also allow Watson to explore her range, and have fun experimenting.
She was great as the book-smart and sassy Hermione, but audiences have yet to see if she has the sufficient range required to take her career to the next level. In an indie, Watson could find out for herself if she’s indeed equipped with the right set of tools. Unlike on, say, a big-budget film, there’s not as much pressure riding on an independent production. If she flounders in a role, chances are not many will see the thing, so it will go largely unnoticed, allowing her to grow as an artist on her own terms. Once she proves herself the way Page did in "Juno," or the way Stewart did in "Into the Wild," then Hollywood is her oyster.
We have a feeling she's on her way.